Digital Perm: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Getting One

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.

When you hear the word perm, you probably automatically think about big, voluminous retro ringlets. You know, voluptuous curls in the vein of Dolly Parton and Sarah Jessica Parker.

But that’s not the case for the popular new trend — digital perms. 

beautiful asian woman with long curly hair

We all know that as technology advances, so do hair styling techniques. And with new technological advances, people with limp, flat locks can rejoice because digital perms are made especially for them.

This perming technique is ready to give you beautiful, soft curls. It helps provide body and volume to your tresses in a more natural-looking and low-maintenance way.

However, this isn’t necessarily quick and easy to do. So it’s best to know everything about this hair styling method before you set your salon appointment.

In this piece, we answer the questions — what is a digital perm? How long do digital perms last? As well as tell you everything you need to know about this popular treatment.

Read on to see if digital perms may be perfect for you.

What Is Digital Perming?

Digital perm, also called digi perm or hot perm, is Asia’s hottest method for getting permanent waves. A Japanese company, Paimore Co., trademarks it, and it has been used in Japan for over a decade.

But what is the difference between a perm and a digital perm?

Digital perms involve heat and chemical solutions that change the structure of your hair. The solution is like the Japanese straight perm solution. 

But for digital perm, rollers are used instead of straightening irons that are used for the straight perm.

In a digital perm, the hair is curled using rods. But unlike a traditional cold perm, these rods are heated and are digitally controlled, hence the name digital perm.

This Asian perm will give you digital perm waves and soft curls that look like you used a large barrelled curling wand but with curls that will stay for months.

How Does Digital Perm Work?

Perms work by affecting the keratin in your hair. Keratin is a protein that makes up 95% of your hair shaft.

Keratin forms a structure in what we call the hair cortex (the inner part of the hair), and this structure is held together by chemical bonds.

Chemical Bonds in Hair

  • Salt bonds
  • Disulfide bonds
  • Hydrogen bonds

The disulfide bond is the strongest among the three, and it’s responsible for keeping the shape of your hair.

It’s this shape that can be altered by perming or relaxing.

Digital perms use an acid solution with a pH between 4.5 to 7.0. This acid, with the help of heat, breaks the disulfide bonds in the hair.

When the hair bonds are broken, the strands will be reformed to take the shape of the curling rod, thereby creating the curls.

Then, a neutralizer is applied to reform the bonds and make them hold the new shape.

What Is the Difference Between a Cold Perm and a Digital Perm?

Most of us are used to cold perms. This method wraps the hair around plastic rods, and a strong-smelling chemical is applied.

This traditional cold perm method has evolved into digital or hot perms, and the difference is in the name. Hot perms use heat, while traditional cold perms don’t.

Another difference is in the results. Curls from a digital perm are looser and more natural-looking, whereas cold wave perms deliver tighter curls.

Moreover, traditional perm curls look more prominent when hair is wet. In contrast, the curls of a wavy digital permed hair look more defined when the hair is dry.

How Is Digital Hair Perming Done?

Some stylists start by pretreating the hair with a hair mask to protect it from damaging chemicals. This is especially important if your hair is highly porous.

The actual digi perm process starts with sectioning the hair and then applying the acid-based perm lotion or cream.

Then, the hair stylist will cover the hair with plastic, and after a few minutes, they’ll rinse off the solution.

Next, they’ll wrap your hair around the rods, along with protective pads. The rods are then attached to a machine at a set temperature and time. This can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.

After that, the rods are removed. Then, the stylist will bring the pH of your cuticles back to normal using a neutralizing solution. This solution will rebond the proteins and set the new shape.

Sound a little complicated? Here’s a visual example to help you understand that better.

Are Digital Perm Results Curly or Wavy?

A digital perm is for you if you’re considering natural-looking waves for your straight hair.

Digital perm creates big, soft curls. The newly permed curls are less sculpted and defined than the carefully-coiffed curls created using a curling iron. It’s like you just woke up with sunkissed wavy hair.

The loose waves make your hair texture look more natural as they are more prominent from the middle of the strands to the ends.

You can even ask for waves that resemble a big hair blowout to add volume to thin, lifeless hair.

Who Can Get a Digital Perm?

Are you considering getting your hair permed using the hot perm method? We can’t blame you for wanting soft, natural-looking curls.

But before scheduling your salon appointment, it’s important that you first understand if your locks can handle this hair treatment. The results may vary depending on your hair type and condition.

A digital perm is ideal for people with straight hair. It was created for Asian hair, which has a thicker structure than Caucasian hair.

However, a digital perm doesn’t just work for coarse hair. You can get a digital perm for fine hair too.

And it’s also possible for people with already wavy or curly hair to get a digital perm too. For curled hair, the stylist will straighten your hair first with a flat iron before curling the strands into the rods.

Unfortunately, despite so many benefits, getting a digital perm isn’t for everyone.

First, determine if your hair is long enough. Your tresses should be longer than 4 inches. 

That’s because the strands must be long enough to be wrapped around the rods. And since it’s a procedure that requires heat, you can’t place the rolls too near the scalp.

But you can still get a digi perm for short hair. It won’t be big curls but more about adding texture and volume to your short locks.

Another thing to remember is that a hot perm is not for highly damaged hair. If your hair feels gummy or brittle, you must first restore it by using deep conditioners or protein treatments.

Remember, hair with normal porosity and elasticity tends to hold a perm best. That said, your hair needs to be healthy if you want your curls to turn out beautifully.

Quick Tip

Always do a strand test first before getting a digital perm to make sure your hair can handle the chemicals and heat involved in the process.

Lastly, note that perming bleached hair is never a good idea. The bleach should be completely gone before you get a perm.

On the other hand, colored hair may be permed if a test strand is performed first.

Are Digital Perms Expensive?

On average, a digital perm can cost approximately $150. This price can increase depending on the length and volume of your hair.

The longer and fuller your locks are, the more product they will need and the longer the procedure will take.

A digital perm is also more expensive than a traditional perm because of the time, equipment, and training involved.

How Long Does a Digital Perm Take?

A hot perm process isn’t like a haircut that you can just get on a whim. It’s a long and pretty complicated process that can take up to 2-4 hours, depending on your hair length.

Applying chemicals and rolling your hair on the curlers will take up time, and that’s not counting the waiting period for the perm solution to work.

It’s best to ensure that your whole morning or afternoon is available. Plus, bring something to entertain you, like a book or your fully-charged phone.

How Do You Maintain a Digital Perm?

A digital perm is, as the name suggests, a permanent wave. But how long does a digital perm last? 

It can last from 6 months to a year. So if you are considering getting a digital perm, you must carefully consider if you can commit to this longevity. 

And if you’ve gotten your digital perm and have those gorgeous natural-looking curls, you’ll want to make the most of them.

Here are some care tips you can add to your hair care routine.

  • Wait 24 hours before you wash your hair after getting a perm to let the curls fully set.
  • Avoid anything with heat – hot shower, heat styling tools, or curling irons – the heat may ruin the shape of your new waves.
  • Detangle your wet hair with your fingers, not a comb or brush.
  • Avoid rubbing your hair vigorously with your towel because hair may get frizzy due to friction.
  • Get a trim once in a while to maintain your hair’s overall health.
  • Use hydrating shampoo and conditioner.
  • Invest in hair products that are safe for curly hair.

Digital Perm Styles

Now that you know about digital perms, you can decide whether or not it’s for you. 

If it is for you, the next step is choosing the digi perm style you want. There are several different digital perm styles to choose from.

Here are our favorites.


A Korean digital perm is an advanced digital perm focused on alphabet-shaped curls. The “S-curl” is created with large barrels and is usually done on the lower part of the hair.

The result is dainty curls in the shape of an S.


Another style you can try with a digital perm is the c-curl, where only the very ends of the tresses are curled, like the letter C. 

This perm emphasizes layers and gives straight hair life, volume, and a bit of fullness.

Digital Perms for Short Hair

When your hair isn’t long enough for cute and flowing curls, you can also try digital perming for short hair to give volume to your locks.

A short hair digital perm is a great way to add texture and wave to your short ‘do.

Medium Length Digital Perm

A digi perm is perfect for light and comfortable waves for your shoulder-length hair. This length works well for getting shorter curls that bounce.

Digital Perm for Long Hair

Longer hair means more space for luxurious curls. You can either get loose spirals or bouncy s-shaped curls.

You can play around with how you want your curls to look when you have long locks, so the sky’s the limit.

More FAQs

Is a Digital Perm Less Damaging Than Cold Perm?

Both methods alter the hair’s structure and, therefore, can cause damage to your locks, but hair stylists agree that digital perm can be more damaging.

That’s because hot perms use a stronger perm solution, and heat is applied.

Is a Digital Perm Good for Thick Hair?

The digital perm was initially known as a perm for Asian hair. And the strands of Asian hair are thicker, so yes, a digi perm is recommended for people with thick or coarse hair.

As for thick density, a digital perm is good because it will create natural-looking waves, unlike cold perms.

Can You Perform a Digital Perm at Home?

No, digi perm isn’t a DIY procedure. It’s a complex process and requires a special machine.

So it’s best to set an appointment at the salon to have it done by a professional.

Can you do a digital perm for thin hair?

Yes, and it’s often recommended for people with thin hair to help add texture and volume. Digi perms can significantly add life to limp locks.

Ask Your Stylist for a Digital Perm

A digital perm is a good option if you’re tired of your straight locks and don’t want to curl your hair daily.

Back of woman's head with long dark curly hair

Digital perms will give you gorgeous, natural waves that are easy to style and maintain. 

Just remember to check if your hair can handle the procedure and research for good salons specializing in digital perms if you want the best results. 

Then, get ready to enjoy your flowing beach waves every day!

Interested in Other Hair Salon Services?

Check out these posts:


  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.

  • Madeline Hall

    With ten years in hairstyling, Madeline Hall has trained with elite colorists Naomi Knight and Lupe Voss and assisted celebrity stylist Alex Chases. From building a solid clientele at San Francisco's Code Salon to impressing Nashville's finest, Madeline is a force in the industry. Passionate about educating clients and staying updated on trends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *